Illustration by Tim Peacock
Illustration: Tim Peacock

What’s the deal?

The richest person in Illinois (with a net worth of $11.6 billion), Ken Griffin is a philanthropist who likes giving big. The founder and CEO of the investment firm Citadel has his name everywhere in town thanks to the some $300 million he’s pumped into Chicago museums, schools, and public services. Which is why the prospect of a move to New York (he just bought a $240 million penthouse there) must have certain local institutions nervous.

Politicians who have benefited from his open checkbook would certainly miss him, too. Griffin, who has called himself a Republican, has given nearly $60 million directly to Illinois candidates (not including money given to political action committees) since 2002, mostly within his party. But when a moderate, probusiness Democrat faces a serious challenge from the far left, Griffin is known to throw a (gilded) bone across the aisle.

Most Noteworthy Megagifts

University of Chicago

$150 million (since 2005)
For:The economics department, which now bears his name
Why:Griffin’s been on the university’s board since 2014 and has said he’s a fan of the department’s “extraordinary work.”

Field Museum

$27 million (since 2004)
For:The permanent exhibition on the evolving planet, named after him, and the new titanosaur installation
Why:Large donation, large planet, large dinosaur — the man likes big things.

Art Institute of Chicago

$19 million (2006)
For:The construction of the Modern Wing (through a gift from the Kenneth and Anne Griffin Foundation, the now-defunct charitable venture he had with his former wife), which opened in 2009
Why:Griffin is a museum trustee and an avid art collector.

Lurie Children’s Hospital

$16 million (2010)
For:An emergency care center that opened in 2012 (donated by the Griffin Foundation)
Why:His ex was a longtime board member and sat on the hospital’s investment committee.

Chicago Park District

$15 million (since 2016)
For:Separate bike and running paths on the Lakefront Trail, completed in December, and mini soccer fields
Why:He’s a runner, a cyclist, and a friend Rahm Emanuel could call on when a project needed a cash IV.

Chicago Police Department

$10 million (2018)
For:The contentious Strategic Decision Support Centers, which work with U. of C.’s Crime Lab to predict crime using data
Why:To attract “more opportunities” to Chicago, Griffin said at a press event.

Top Political Beneficiaries

1. Bruce Rauner (Republican)

$36 million
For:2014 (won) and 2018 (lost) gubernatorial campaigns

2. Jim Durkin (Republican)

$11 million
For:2016 (won, unopposed) and 2018 (won) Illinois House races

3. Leslie Munger (Republican)

$5 million
For:2014 Illinois House (lost) and 2016 state comptroller (lost) races

4. Bill Daley (Democrat)

$2 million
For:2019 mayoral run (lost)

5. Bill Brady (Republican)

$1.7 million
For:2010 gubernatorial (lost) and 2018 Illinois Senate (won, unopposed) runs

6. Erika Harold (Republican)

$1.7 million
For:2018 state attorney general campaign (lost)

7. Rahm Emanuel (Democrat)

For:2015 mayoral reelection campaign (won)